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Should one write "and vice versa" or "or vice versa"?

Examples:

A) Autocomplete can be set to 'on' for the form, but 'off' for specific input fields, and vice versa.

B) Autocomplete can be set to 'on' for the form, but 'off' for specific input fields, or vice versa.

I'm sorry about the examples, they look weird out of context. I was wiring an HTML5 tutorial when the question popped into my head.

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    What is the other way round? The settings (which can be taken more verbally or more nounally). Choose setting a or b. Autocomplete can be set to 'on' for the form, but 'off' for specific input fields, or Autocomplete can be set to 'off' for the form, but 'on' for specific input fields. Assuming, as Talia points out, that this is an either - or situation. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '13 at 12:57
  • Both variants are less than perfect. If the Autocomplete setting of the form can be overriden for each specific field, just say that. – n. 'pronouns' m. Sep 27 '13 at 18:43
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The key is useless without the lock, and vice versa.

= The key is useless without the lock, and the lock is useless without the key.

... BUT

You can put on the cream before the strawberry jam, or vice versa.

= You can put on the cream before the strawberry jam, or [you can put on] the strawberry jam before the cream.

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  • Good examples, thanks. I think in my case, either way would be acceptable, but I'm going with 'or'. – Marcus L Sep 30 '13 at 6:15
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@EdwinAshworth has given examples that demonstrate how it's possible for there to be a significant difference in meaning between and vice versa and or vice versa but in your example there is not much difference. Whichever conjunction you use, the reader can be in no doubt about what is possible.

I think your use of the passive voice is a greater impediment to clarity. When you say

Autocomplete can be set to 'on'

it's unclear who can set it. If you say

You can set autocomplete to 'on'

there's no ambiguity.

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This is not a question of vice versa, but of can in combination with the conjunction/operator or and of can in combination with the conjunction/operator and. The or kind is not ambiguous; the and kind is.

When you have the sentence "You can do A and B", only the context determines which of the following two meanings applies:

1) On the one hand, you can act in a way that results in your having done A, but not B; on the other hand, you can act in a way that results in your having done B, but not A. If you want, you might so act as to have done nothing.

2) You can act in a way that results in your having done A and B. If you want, you might so act as to have done A only, or to have done B only, or to have done nothing.

When you have the sentence "You can do A or B", only this meaning applies:

1) On the one hand, you can act in a way that results in your having done A, but not B; on the other hand, you can act in a way that results in your having done B, but not A. If you want, you might so act as to have done nothing.

If something must be done, then use must. If one option excludes the other, use expressions such as only, exclusive, excluding, but not, either etc. As for the combinations you really are offering, I don't know them; you do.

As for vice versa, the fact is that it means exactly: the other way around. Do with that fact as you deem fit.

Edit: In the everyday communication, people rely on the context and common sense of each other, so they don't see the need to be very precise. However, in sensitive situations there is no place for assumptions. That's why tekkies, just as well as jurists, tend to be mindful of these pitfalls.

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  • Before tackling the logic involved in using 'exclusive or' etc, it would help to decide whether the modal 'can' is being used in the 'it is possible to' sense/s (with the 'totally impossible' and 'will foul the works up' opposites) or the 'here's one interesting idea' sense. You can swim 100 metres - I've seen you do it. You can leave the computer on overnight - I usually do, and it never causes any problems. You can colour-code your socks like Rimmer does. – Edwin Ashworth Sep 27 '13 at 12:47

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